Russell Westbrook is a fire-breathing dragon. He’s fiercely competitive and plays with an angry streak matched by few in NBA history. While he’s lauded for his emotion as one of his greatest strengths, it’s also his greatest weakness.
Make no mistake about it — Westbrook is a fantastic basketball player. He’s as quick as anyone in the league and although it’s rarely mentioned, he’s also an ironman. In his five years in the league, he’s played every single game (358 of a possible 358 games).
Westbrook is equally likely to make a highlight-reel dunk to energize the crowd as he is to eviscerate a teammate for not making the right play (sorry, Thabo!).
As of now, that reward is well worth the risks involved. However, as Westbrook’s list of blow-ups continues to grow, the team will continue to take notice and will follow suit.
The 2011-12 version of the Oklahoma City Thunder was mostly smooth sailing, with the notable rift between Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Concerns were raised over whether they could coexist, but those were found to be unwarranted…for the time being.
This year’s version of the Thunder has been impressive as a whole. They are No. 1 in the NBA, scoring 105.7 points per game. Durant is having a MVP season and Kevin Martin has been a great substitute for the recently-traded James Harden.
But, the cracks are starting to show. What was once a tighter-knit unit has turned into a bickering group. Is it because they had a taste of greatness in the NBA Finals and now believe they deserve that again this year?
Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka have taken turns blaming each other for missed defensive assignments. Instead of the hungry group that had a common goal, they’re now a more entitled group that has trouble dealing with adversity.
Have expectations risen so quickly that they’re having trouble dealing with the inevitable struggles involved with achieving the greatest success? It certainly seems so. It all starts with the leaders of the team. Westbrook has been a big part of building this team, but if he doesn’t get his emotions under control, he’ll be an even bigger part of them falling apart.
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